We hear the term “Emotional Intelligence” a lot in workplaces. We get told that great leaders have it. Our performance reviews tell us to increase it. But what is it? Here’s my own definition:
Emotional Intelligence is the ability to consciously align your behaviors to a desired outcome.
It may sound simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. That’s because behaviors are influenced by emotions, and emotions are influenced by a variety of things like personal needs, values, past experience, and instinct. The raw input of our environment passes through these filters, and our brain delivers a verdict in the form of an interpretation. And that, in turn, produces a behavior.
Basically, it’s “Channel and Choose.” Your brain receives stimulus, channels it through your own personal filters, and then chooses an action.
One of the wondrous and amazing things about the human brain is that it can operate at a meta level of consciousness, above these routine brain processes. We can become aware of our own needs and values that trigger particular emotions. We can process those emotions and then evaluate potential responses. We can learn to recognize situations that create an “emotional-hijack” and produce ineffective (or even destructive) behaviors—and change that course.